Vocational training looks different in various countries. For example, in Germany, vocational school graduates are more likely to be employed than their traditional education counterparts. Finland offers free of charge vocational education for all students and even state grants to help them finish their studies.
Having this in mind, in the U.S., 95% of Career and technical education students also graduate high school. What can be surprising to some people is that they are also very satisfied with their field of choice.
Sure, there are many reasons why a student might opt for this type of training. However, we can be sure of one thing: a traditional academic path isn’t for everyone. Learning a practical skill early on certainly pays off, whether they want to pursue training as an electrician, landscape designer, or licensed practical nurse, among many other career paths.
Not to mention that they will only need two years of education if they pursue an associate degree, with much lower tuition fees and on-the-job training. The latter is a big plus when it comes to finding a purpose. They know what they like and dislike and feel ready to embark on a lucrative technical career.
That being said, given the practical aspect of these schools, there are bigger questions to ask about the role of edtech in vocational education. For example, how can we offer the same online education opportunities for vocational students? What can edtech do for students who wish to work more physically demanding jobs?
8 Ways in which edtech supports Vocational Education
A major problem that I see currently is focusing the discussion around traditional academic paths. You often see studies and articles that tout the benefits of edtech, but forget that vocational education requires a different approach, even if you are using the same learning platform to teach both types of students.
That’s why today we’ll tackle the benefits of edtech for vocational education and see some ways in which we can encourage student participation in these classes:
1. Managing health and safety risks
Compliance courses aren’t everyone’s favorites, yet risk management is no joke. Coupled with a teenager’s propensity for risk, we can now see how important it is to avoid health hazards and do so early.
In fact, young workers who receive occupational safety and health training are 50 percent less likely to have an accident at work. By the time students complete their education, they should know how to protect themselves and others, which leads to a better work environment overall.
One of the greatest advantages of using a learning platform is that students can take compliance courses periodically. Instead of attending face-to-face seminars, they can do this at their own pace and receive reminders to complete them on time.
Moreover, they can simply whip up their phones and recheck a lesson before doing any kind of risky activity.
2. Enhancing digital skills
Digital skills are required across all types of work, but it’s a mistake to assume that young people are born with the right competencies. Teachers can support students in learning digital skills directly through a learning platform. For example, they’ll know how to access and share resources, organize important documents in a portfolio, how to connect with like-minded peers, and even give feedback online. They can actually be highlighted as bonus competencies that they’ll learn by the time they graduate.
Digital literacy is a marketable skill that will help them cope with considerable demands much faster. That’s because employers worry that low tech skills lead to a loss of productivity, customers, and fewer contracts, among others.
Plus, after starting a job, they’ll very likely move on to a business learning platform, which employers often use to train employees from various industries, from culinary specialists to lab technicians.
3. Taking ownership of learning
In Career and Technical Education, students are on a fast track to getting a job. This also means that they have to learn how to be more proactive in their learning. Teachers can take advantage of this and set up goals and learning paths for all students. In this way, they’re responsible for their education and not the other way around.
Seeing their progress means that they understand the learning process much better. Additionally, aside from structuring the content in a logical manner, teachers can enhance lessons with fun and interactive content.
For example, a learning path can have an introductory video with the most important theoretical concepts. Then, they see a video demonstration followed by a short quiz. Afterward, learners get a badge and points that give them a sense of accomplishment that motivates them to learn more and be curious about their studies.
4. Mixing different instructional methods
E-learning opens up a new world of possibilities to online-only students, and schools are happy to accept more international applicants.
However, that may not be enough for vocational training since it requires learning new physical skills. Consequently, there can be a compromise between the online and face-to-face approach in which online lessons are for the theoretical aspects, leaving much more time for practical training.
For example, as long as students have a computer or smartphone, they can log in and prepare for class through short and engaging instructional videos. In this way, they can be more motivated to learn than by sitting in a classroom to attend a lecture.
Sure, there will be a period of adjustment. But after graduation, they’ll have to work in possibly risky situations, take responsibility for their actions and there will always be new technology to learn how to use. It’s better to trust them to be involved in their education and do it early.
5. Engaging online tutorials
You can learn how to do anything online these days, so why bother with school? For example, I could go right now on YouTube and learn how to plant a garden.
Except that the school offers accredited courses and makes sure students actually learn the skills and demonstrate knowledge. This is a significant difference that should not be taken for granted.
Similarly, it’s not that vocational students dislike e-learning per se, they can’t see its relevance if it’s not adapted to their needs. If they don’t like sitting at a computer for long periods of time, it’s better to offer easy-to-follow and engaging video tutorials. Giving up textbooks or offering only online ones that they can consult whether needed is also a good idea.
Instead of uploading written documentation, schools can create their own videos, which are relevant and complementary to on-the-job training.
6. Offering different types of assessments
Vocational training requires a holistic approach to assessment. Students might even have a difficult relationship with tests and exams that don’t really measure what they’ve learned, especially the practical aspects.
That being said, this relationship can be mended if they learn to see assessment as measuring progress. Using a learning platform, teachers can easily assign out-of-the-box tests. For example, instead of essays, students take auto-graded quizzes as a way to improve their theoretical knowledge. These can also be only used for practice and don’t have to add to a final grade.
Alternatively, instead of paper-and-pencil tests, they can submit videos or images of their work and receive feedback from teachers and peers. In this way, they’ll be more motivated to interact with a learning platform and complete assignments that help them become more confident.
7. Adding simulations to the mix
Not all schools have the funding and the resources to offer special equipment to all students. Plus, there’s always the risk management part to consider, so teachers must rely on other methods to prepare students for their future careers.
Using simulation to immerse students in real-life scenarios is the next best thing. It’s undoubtedly less expensive and risky, not to mention that it’s a sustainable option. Virtual and Augmented Reality can show what a particular workplace is like, help students learn through practice and build essential skills.
It’s no wonder that VR training is more effective than the traditional one and develops both hard and soft skills. For example, culinary schools students can learn how to manage a restaurant, or nursing trainees learn how to interact with a patient.
8. Creating a job portfolio
Once students are out of school, the transition to work may be easier or more difficult depending on many factors, including the number of applicants for a position.
Consequently, students need to stand out and show what they’ve learned. One way to do this is to start building their portfolio, which they can do throughout the school year. For example, a restaurant may request to see the ability to plan entire menus.
However, they can also showcase activities as on-the-job training. Students can keep a journal of their experiences with details about the skills that they have learned and how they can apply them in the future. They can also list the courses that they’ve taken throughout their studies through the learning platform.
Therefore, a portfolio can act as a motivational factor to keep going and learn more and it will also serve as something to use in future job interviews.
Edtech and vocational education
Vocational schools or Career and Technical Education, or however they're called in different areas are an essential part of the education system. They prepare students for high-demand, high-skill and high-paying jobs at much lower fees. However, edtech can be just as useful, if not even more useful for vocational studies as long as their needs are taken into account.
For example, mixing instructional methods, offering engaging video tutorials and customizing assessment methods are just some of the ways in which instructors can motivate students to make the most of e-learning.